Finding Her Strength Again: Nicole Heydt, Kickboxing and Recovery from Breast Cancer
Treatment and recovery from breast cancer can leave even young, fit women with frequent pain and barely a fraction of the energy they used to have.
That was the case for Nicole Heydt. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 at just 22 years old, Nicole found herself in recovery more often than not.
Nicole had always been an active person, trying lots of different types of workouts to keep herself interested. She was a regular at Down Dog in the hot Vinyasa flow class, running, lifting weights, swimming and more. She even completed a mini Army training camp at Fort Knox in Kentucky the summer before her diagnosis, which left her feeling the most fit she’d ever been.
But all of that changed when she had to begin cancer treatments. She had a total of six surgeries on her chest in just two years.
“I went from being able to do 30 to 40 pushups straight, to barely being able to do 10 or 15 modified pushups, on my knees,” Nicole remembers.
By the beginning of this year, Nicole was starting to feel a little more like herself again, so when a friend invited her to join her for a free trial class at her gym, Pentagon MMA, she agreed. Her friend had been a member for a while, and couldn’t stop raving to Nicole about how much she loved it.
“I saw the difference Muay Thai made in her life,” Nicole recalls. “I wanted to feel healthier and stronger again, and since she had been so happy with the gym, I came in for a few trial classes.”
Right away, Nicole was struck with what a complete workout she got.
“I threw up after the warm-up during my first Muay Thai class,” she said—but she wasn’t going to let it stop her. “I thought it was tough, but definitely what I needed. After I got it out of my system, I finished the rest of class.”
After trying a few trial classes, Nicole eventually fell in love with Pentagon MMA’s Women’s Fitness Kickboxing program. She says, particularly with her health challenges, the program is perfect because of its flexibility, allowing her the ability to customize it depending on how she’s feeling, health-wise.
“I ended up choosing the Women’s Kickboxing program because I can make my workout as strenuous or light as I need to depending on my day and my body’s needs,” she explains. “I come back as often as I have time because I love the workout and the energy that accompanies it. I also just really enjoy the community—the instructors and members.”
Since joining Pentagon MMA as a member in March of this year, Nicole says she is seeing myriad changes in her body for the better—especially the giant energy boost she gets from the kickboxing workouts, which she says really help her body’s recovery from breast cancer and all the treatments and surgeries that come with it.
“My body has definitely become stronger — I can run two to three miles without getting winded now. That might not be much for most people, but for someone who hates running and has never been great at it, this is definitely a personal accomplishment,” she explains. “Now, not only can I work out comfortably, but I can run, AND I can do around 10 pushups without my knees again.”
“The chest pain is still significant, but it has started to decrease as my strength increases,” she adds.
The changes have been more than just physical, too.
“Mentally I am also stronger. I push myself in ways that I had not before, and I also just feel healthier having a safe way to exert daily frustrations!”
Most amazingly, Nicole says, the workouts have changed from being something she used to have to push herself to do, into something she chooses and gets to do.
“I started out thinking that kickboxing was necessary for a workout and to maintain my strength, but now I see it as a reward after a long day,” she says. “Kickboxing has helped me find my strength again – physically and mentally.”